The American Civil War was actually a war between distinct regions. It was a clash of cultures, a war between the several states. There were certain regions—the border states like Maryland—where the populations within the same territory were truly divided, and where it was not uncommon for one brother to fight for one side and another brother to fight for the other. What we have boiling on the stove now contains the makings of an actual civil conflict, where the disruption that happened in just the border states two centuries ago is happening all across the nation.
With the nomination for the Supreme Court that Trump is poised to make, everyone appears to understand that Roe is on the table. Nothing is certain in terms of specific outcomes, but I would like to argue that if Roe is on the table, then America is also.
Red/blue maps are now fairly common in electoral analysis, and when you look at them state by state, the whole thing can be made to look like a regional conflict. But this is actually a false appearance. That is because, thanks to the Electoral College, we vote by states, and the overwhelming majority of our states follow a winner-take-all system of allocation. The only two exceptions are Nebraska and Maine. This means that when you have swing states, where the election really could go this way or that way (51/49), the whole enchilada goes with the 51. In this kind of analysis, Minnesota and Oklahoma can come out the same color . . . which is misleading.
But if you look at the red and blue breakdown county by county, or even precinct by precinct, the picture changes dramatically. The map I posted here is telling—it is a county-by-country breakdown, but the colors are only apportioned when the presidential candidate won that county by twenty points or more. In other words, you are looking at territory where it wasn’t even close.
A House Divided:
Now as some may have surmised, I am not a big Lincoln fan, but I do admire his ability to grasp the nature of an inconsistency. Here is a little something from his famous House Divided speech.
“‘A house divided against itself cannot stand.’ I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided.”
The reason this observation was cogent is that Lincoln was making an application to politics, taking as his illustration something that Jesus took from the realm of politics.
“And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand” (Matt. 12:25).
Lincoln was talking about the momentous doctrine of chattel slavery, and he said that such an issue would be enough to tear the country apart. Now, in the present time, we are being torn apart by two issues that are every bit as important as that one.
SCOTUS and Faux Unity
In a federal system, it makes sense for some states to do it this way and others to do it that way. That is kind of the whole point. Some states have this drinking age and others have that one. Some have Live Free or Die on their license plates, like New Hampshire, and others have Drive Carefully, like Maryland. Some torment business owners with heavy fines if they successfully create jobs and others welcome entrepreneurs. Some apportion electoral votes in a winner-take-all fashion and others don’t. Some states, like Colorado, have the columbine as the state flower, while Texas chose a different state flower (as the fellow said) in the filet mignon.
What Lincoln was saying was that federalism was not elastic enough to handle some states that allowed for slavery and other states that did not. It was not the kind of issue—like when you are allowed to get your driver’s permit—that can just be accommodated. The event proved him to be correct, at least on that point.
Now it is apparent, at least to me, that the Supreme Court of the United States has taken the view, on at least two modern occasions, that the great sexual issues are just like the slavery issue, at least in this respect.
Our system of federalism is not elastic enough to accommodate diversity on the two sexual issues of abortion and same sex mirage. All the states must do it the same way, or the states will eventually go their separate ways. This is why legal abortion was jammed down the throats of most states, and this is why the same thing has been done with same sex mirage. This is also why most of the states (that didn’t want abortion) put up with this power move. They had to choose between the unborn and a united America. Up to this point, pro-lifers have sought to fight for both—they want to outlaw abortion and they want to keep the country together.
The Supreme Court, in imposing one law on the entire country, did not expect the house to fall, but they did expect that it would cease to be divided. In fact, they were so certain of it that they demanded that the nation cease being divided—abortion must be legal everywhere and unnatural unions must be permitted everywhere.
What the ongoing presence of an active pro-life movement has done is this—it has kept the possibility of a divided America on the table. This is not what was intended, but it is what has happened. The progressives are far more consistent in their thinking on this than conservatives have been.
I am not predicting that Trump’s next appointment to the Court will necessitate that Roe will in fact be overturned. I am simply saying that it is a functional possibility. The president himself has been saying that it is a possibility. The Left is certainly taking it that way. And because it is now a real possibility, pro-lifers need to work through our game plan, and in addition to that, we need to weigh and consider the potential ramifications.
In short, to get straight to the point, we need to count the cost.
“Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand?” (Luke 14:31).
This applies to civil wars as much as to the other kind.
The most obvious thing about an overturned Roe is that the issue would be kicked back to the states. But what would happen if a bunch of states outlawed abortion immediately and other states kept things the way they are now? What if Lincoln was right? What if that ancient messiah figure that he was quoting was right? Suppose that a kingdom divided against itself—on issues of this magnitude—really cannot stand? What if Blackmun, who wrote Roe, was correct? What if it is not tolerable that it be legal to chop babies into pieces in this state, and against the law (because it is murder) in the state right across the river? What if Kennedy, the author of Obergefell, was shrewder than the children of light when he assumed that a country could not be the same country from coast to coast with radically different definitions of what the institution of marriage is?
Everyone knew this principle at one time—it is why the Mormons had to come up with a “revelation of convenience” that ditched polygamy before Utah could be admitted to the union. The country looked at the polygamists and determined that our federal system was not that elastic. And in Idaho, our state constitution closed off any public office to anyone who believed, like the Mormons, in “celestial marriage.” This embarrassing vestigial reminder of another day remained in our constitution down to (I think) the eighties, where it was removed in a public referendum. And at that time, about a third of Idahoans, myself included, voted against removing it.
Some people can eat blackened catfish and other people can eat kale, and we can deal with that. But we cannot deal with not having a shared understanding of what boys and girls are. If we don’t have that common ground, we cannot have lasting common ground in any other areas of our commonwealth. This is because, as Jesus taught, a house divided cannot stand.
And incidentally, for those who want to say that Jesus was teaching a “spiritual truth,” he was actually taking a political maxim and applying it to the spiritual realm. So while it is true that the kingdom of God grows like a mustard seed, it remains the truth that a mustard seed grows like a mustard seed. While it is true that spiritual kingdoms cannot stand when they are divided in a fundamental way, this is true because it is true of all kingdoms. It is the case for all commonwealths.
If you don’t know what a girl is, if you don’t know what a boy is, how on earth are you able to tell what an American is? If you can’t see the big E on the eye chart, don’t bother trying to read the bottom line.
So What is the Cost We are to Count?
I want to come to the conclusion, and state it briefly. It needs much more development, but we are entering an era where there will no doubt be many more occasions to debate and discuss this.
If the red and blue map I have posted here were three dimensional, we would see another reality. The blue areas are a lot thicker, with some areas like LA and New York towering up like skyscrapers. And some of the red areas, particularly in places like South Dakota, are just one layer of paint thick, and that paint is a thin red primer. The leftists are fond of pointing out that Hillary won the popular vote, and that all that Trump territory includes more than a little bit of sagebrush. The point is taken, granted. We are a house divided. But it is worth paying attention to the fault lines.
There are other (thought experiment) three dimensional maps that can be utilized as well, and if we run those experiments, the skyscrapers move and change color. Where are all the guns located?
We are so divided that we have come to the point where we don’t accept the results of elections anymore. That is how you can tell that all common ground has disappeared from beneath our feet. When Abraham Lincoln was elected, South Carolina did not accept the results of the election, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If Roe is overturned (as I hope and pray that it will be), then Alabama and Idaho and Oklahoma will promptly outlaw abortions. Will California and New York accept this? No, they will not, and the only alternative at that point, over such an issue, will be civil rupture. They will hate the presence of pro-life states more than Christians hated the (pre-Roe) presence of pro-abortion states. This trait of ours was a mix of endearing naiveté and a deeply troubling national idolatry. We wanted America to stay united more than we wanted to save the lives of children.
Just know this. If you pray for Roe to be overturned, and for the issue to be returned to the states, you are praying for the eventual crack-up of the 50 state union. It may happen with a whimper or a bang, but one thing is sure and certain. Respect for life and love of death are incompossibilities. We cannot vote them into a mutual respect and acceptance any more than we can vote to have water flow uphill. The fear of the Lord is to hate evil (Prov. 8:13), and hatred of wisdom loves death (Prov. 8:36). Can these two get along?
In short, if we held a national referendum which resolved that it was the will of the American people that a house divided could too stand, it still wouldn’t matter if the referendum were approved in a landslide. That house would still fall. We have someone’s word on it.